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Explained: What Are India’s Drug Laws?

In 2019, around 72,000 cases were registered under India’s stringent Drug Law also called the NDPS Act. However, in the last year and a half, the spotlight on drug use has been on Bollywood. Narcotics Control Bureau or NCB, India’s drugs regulatory body, has aggressively probed the connection between the tinsel town celebrities and drugs. 

In the recent raid the NCB reported a seizure of myriad drugs, including Cocaine, MD, MDMA and Charas. As the NCB continues its investigation, we help decode the key provisions of the NDPS act or in simple terms what India’s Drug Laws are.

Before we understand what India’s NDPS Act entails, let’s understand what narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are.

From a medical point of view, psychotropics are designated as chemical substances that act upon the mind, that is on the conscious or unconscious mental life of an individual.

Narcotics include substances that cause unconsciousness, muscular relaxation and a reduction or elimination of sensitivity.

Now that we know what narcotic drugs and psychotropics are, let’s look at when this act got enacted in India

Enactment Of NDPS Act

The NDPS Act was enacted in 1985 with an aim to comply with the guidelines of international conventions relating to drugs and their abuse.

Simply put the NDPS Act, 1985 prohibits a person from producing, manufacturing, cultivating, selling, purchasing, possessing, transporting, storing or consuming any kind of narcotic or psychotropic substance, except for medical and scientific purposes. 

Just a year after the enactment of the act, the Narcotics Control Bureau was set up under the Union home ministry.

But what are some of the drugs that are banned under this act?

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Drugs Banned Under The Act

The NDPS Act says that narcotic drug means coca leaf, cannabis, opium, poppy straw and includes all manufactured drugs.

And these manufactured drugs include all coca derivatives, medicinal cannabis, opium derivatives, poppy straw concentrate or any other narcotic substance which the central government may by a form of notification declare as a manufactured drug.

However, there was a crucial 2014 amendment that allowed better medical access to certain narcotic drugs.

The amendment made several essential Narcotic Drugs
Like Morphine, Fentanyl and Methadone, more accessible for use in pain relief and palliative care.

The Amendment also contained measures to improve treatment and care for people dependent on drugs, opened up the processing of opium and concentrated poppy straw to the private sector.

The Act lists down stringent provisions,and punishments, for when people are booked under the act.

So, what are these stringent provisions ?

Key Provisions Of The Act

Possession of drugs is itself an offence under the NDPS Act as much as sale, purchase, production, etc. The punishment does not depend on whether the possession or purchase is for personal use or for resale but depends on the quantity of the drug.

Consumption of drugs is an offence under section 27 of the NDPS Act and is punishable with imprisonment of up to one year ,in case of Cocaine, morphine, heroin or six months in case of all other drugs.

However, addicts volunteering for treatment get immunity under section 64A of the Act.

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The Act allows the court to grant immunity to an addict if they are found involved in a case dealing with small amounts of drugs. The immunity, however, is granted only after the accused agrees to undergo medical treatment for deaddiction.

As per the Act, Section 31A states that maximum punishment in cases under NDPS Act is death penalty.

The death penalty can be given to a person found guilty of being involved with commercial quantities of drugs. 

If someone has only consumed banned drugs or narcotics but is not involved in trading, they can get bail. 

It must be noted that the Centre can update the list of psychotropic substances. In 2015, the government added Mephedrone or meth, as a psychotropic substance. The amendment was made after the drug grew popular among the youth. 

NCB isn’t the only body overseeing drug-related matters in the country. There are other agencies investigating matters related to the use of drugs too.

The primary drug-regulating agencies in the country are the the Narcotics Control Division and the Central Bureau of Narcotics.

But how do other countries regulate the consumption and use of narcotic substances or even cannabis.

Drug Laws Globally

In recent years, countries like Uruguay, Canada and several US permitted recreational and medicinal use of cannabis with calls for legalising its use growing around the world. 

United States drug laws are often considered harsh. The

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In China for instance, if you are caught with drugs, you could be forced to attend drug rehab in a facility run by the government. Execution is the penalty for some drug crimes.

In Vietnam, drug crimes are taken very seriously. If you are arrested with more than 1.3 pounds of heroin, you will be executed.

US has more than 2 million people in its jails – the second highest rate of incarceration per capita in the world – about half of whom were convicted of drugs-related crimes, but the penalties for carrying or trafficking narcotic drugs in other countries, particularly those in Central America, South America, and Southeast Asia, are severe too.

Drug laws in Indonesia are notoriously strict. Possession of illicit drugs is punished by jail time and hefty fines and drug trafficking carries long jail sentences or the death penalty.

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